The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life…

What really happened during the last months of Marilyn Monroe’s life?  That’s the question I’ve been attempting to answer, as part of a 4-part series; this is Part 2.  If you haven’t read Part 1, go back & read it now ~ “What Really Happened to Marilyn Monroe: Suicide or Murder?”   All these posts were inspired by the book: “The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe,” which left me wondering HOW on earth the public could have been so deceived about what really happened to this Hollywood star. 

I wanted to see, in a clear, timeline format ~ what was happening in the years & months prior to her death, particularly with the people surrounding her (many of whom were present on the night of her death).  The last post left off in May 1962, with JFK’s 45th birthday celebration, & Marilyn’s iconic performance.  Our timeline picks up right after that night, taking us right up to the eve of her death, as we re-trace the last months of Marilyn Monroe’s life…  

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

During the last months of Marilyn Monroe’s life, she was filming the movie “Something’s Got to Give,” with Dean Martin & Director George Cukor (pictured).

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life..

Sunday, May 20th, 1962 = Marilyn arrives back in Los Angeles to a crush of crowds & reporters; her “Happy Birthday” has been all over the news, & if she wasn’t already the most famous woman in the world: this seems to solidify it.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

After Marilyn’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” performance at Madison Square Garden for JFK, her fame grows ever larger: she is one of the most recognized women on the planet.

Monday, May 21st, 1962 = Marilyn returns to work on “Something’s Got to Give” at 6:15AM, aided by amphetamines.  She doesn’t feel well (either does Dean Martin), but works anyway.

Wednesday, May 23rd, 1962 = The now-infamous “pool scene” occurs on the lot, & it’s one of the last times Marilyn will be captured on film.  It’s a playful scene, & numerous images of her are captured, in the nude, playfully cavorting in the pool.  When word of the scene gets out, a near-stampede is created, as actors & crew from nearby sets try to sneak in.  She’s in the water for four hours, with director George Cukor filming, & photographer Billy Woodfield capturing stills.  He later ended up selling the shots for over $150,000 ~ more than Monroe’s salary on the film. 

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

One of the last times she was caught on film, while shooting “Something’s Got to Give.”

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Thursday, May 24th, 1962 = J. Edgar Hoover schedules another meeting with JFK (following his birthday celebration).  No one knows exactly what was said, but following the meeting, JFK tells the Oval Office switchboard to refuse all calls from Marilyn; the private line he’d given her is disconnected.  Kennedy also calls Judith Cambell Exner, another mistress, telling her that their relationship needs to end immediately.  But JFK doesn’t want to tell Monroe himself ~ so he convinces brother-in-law Peter Lawford to break the news to her.  

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, meeting with JFK & Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy.  They were not political allies.

Saturday, May 26th, 1962 = Peter Lawford calls Marilyn from Hyannisport, at the “Kennedy Compound” (according to Patricia Seaton Lawford).  He says that she’ll never be able to contact JFK again.  She’ll never be First Lady, & she wasn’t even a serious affair.  Worried about potential fallout & Marilyn’s hysteria, Pat Newcomb is elected to “move in” with Marilyn that weekend; she brings sedatives with her.  Newcomb allegedly slept at the foot of Marilyn’s bed that weekend, according to handyman Norman Jeffries.  “[Marilyn] seemed to be a prisoner in her own bedroom,” he said. 

Monday, May 28th, 1962 = Marilyn arrives on set, extremely upset.  One of her fellow actors, Tom Tryon, said of her, “From the moment she came on set, she looked like a piece of fine crystal about to shatter.”  George Cukor agreed: “I’ve never seen her like this.  She looks like she’s falling apart.”  

May 29-June 1st, 1962 = Marilyn works for 9 days straight, with renewed focus & dedication.

June 1st, 1962 = It’s Marilyn’s birthday.  She turns 36, & her co-workers give her a small celebration on set.  That night, she has an appearance at Dodger Stadium for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.  After being outside for several hours in unseasonably cold weather, Monroe drives home & is hit with blinding pain, & the return of her chronic sinus condition.  

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

Marilyn celebrating her 36th birthday, on the set of “Something’s Got to Give.”

Monday, June 4th, 1962 = Monroe is unable to return to set, & has spent the weekend trying to reach Jack Kennedy ~ with no success.  She tells several friends about this, & is very disturbed by it. 

Wednesday, June 6th, 1962 = After being contacted by disgruntled studio heads, Dr. Greenson finally returns home from Europe, guaranteeing that he’ll get Marilyn back to set by Monday.  (Side Note: Greenson seems to have been overly confident in his ability to “control” Marilyn.)  He goes directly to Monroe’s home upon returning from Europe, & spends two hours with her.  He also confers with her physician, Dr. Engelberg, & they agree that she’s strong enough to return to set. 

Friday, June 8th, 1962 = Unbeknownst to Greenson, Fox had already filed papers to dismiss Monroe from “Something’s Got to Give.”  They also filed a damage suit against her for $1 million (essentially for her repetitive tardiness & frequent absences).  Greenson goes to her immediately, finds her upset, & gives her a tranquilizer shot to calm her down.  Meanwhile, Fox takes things a step further, by deliberately crafting a campaign against Monroe in the press: they call her “mentally ill.”  The studio, it seemed, was trying to destroy their own star. 

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World, Marilyn Vogue, Bert Stern

One of Marilyn’s final shoots, for Vogue Magazine, in July 1962. Photo by Bert Stern.  Of this session, Stern said: “Marilyn had the power. She was the light, & the goddess, & the moon ~ the space & the dream, the mystery & the danger.”

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Monday, June 11th, 1962 = Marilyn calls Darryl F. Zanuck, another Fox heavyweight, who’s been sidelined in Europe filming “The Longest Hour.”  He’s furious with the decision to fire her, & makes secret plans with Spyros to buy back more Fox shares, & re-take over the company.  When this happens, he promises to re-install Marilyn in “Something’s Got to Give.” 

Wednesday, June 13th, 1962 = Hearing of her dismissal, Joe Dimaggio (her former husband) flies back from Europe immediately, hoping to console Marilyn, & possibly reconcile.  Their obstacles had always been her career & his jealousies; he thought these might be behind them now.  But when he met her, he found her more determined than ever to pursue her career.  According to his son’s fiancee Pamela, they had a “bitter row” about her career ~ but also about the Kennedy’s.  That was the last argument they would ever have. 

Years later, after her death (which many say he never got over), Joe Dimaggio was quoted as saying: 

The whole lot of Kennedys were lady-killers, & they always got away with it.  They’ll be getting away with it a hundred years from now.” 

June 20 – July 15th, 1962 = Marilyn launches a MASSIVE media campaign of her own, to combat Fox’s negative press.  She meets with leading columnists, gives interviews non-stop, & completes photo sessions with Cosmopolitan, Life, Redbook, & Vogue.  She also dictates 104 telegrams to the cast & crew of “Something’s Got to Give,” expressing her sadness about the studio’s decision to shut down filming.  Clearly, she was a woman on a mission.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World, Marilyn Cosmo

Marilyn Monroe, shot for Cosmopolitan magazine by George Barris, shortly before her death, in July 1962.  During this session, she told Barris, “As far as I’m concerned, the happiest time is NOW. There’s a future, & I can’t wait to get to it!”

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Saturday, June 23rd, 1962 = Bobby Kennedy flies to Los Angeles.  Bobby & Marilyn are both invited to a dinner party at Lawford’s beach house.  According to Patricia Lawford, the purpose for Bobby’s visit was to stop Marilyn from contacting the President.  She had abandoned her code name, & was openly trying to reach him now ~ both at the White House, & at Hyannisport.  In order to save her career, he tells her that she needs to cooperate & stay quiet.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

Some of the “Rat Pack,” including Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, & Marilyn Monroe, at Lawford’s beach house in Santa Monica (minutes from Marilyn’s home on Fifth Helena).

Sunday, June 24th, 1962 = Bobby Kennedy visits Marilyn at her home, at Fifth Helena in Brentwood.  Her housekeeper, Mrs. Murray, says Marilyn showed him around, but didn’t seem too enthusiastic about his visit.

Monday, June 25th, 1962 = Fox records show that Bobby Kennedy called Judge Rosenman (Chairman of Fox), telling him to re-negotiate Monroe’s contract, & asking her to return to “Something’s Got to Give.”  This was just 16 days after her dismissal.  (What exactly did her & Bobby discuss that weekend, that seemed to lead to this re-instatement?  Did she promise that she’d never contact JFK again?)  

Thursday, June 28th, 1962 = Marilyn meets with Fox studio head Peter Levathes at her home, to discuss contract terms.  He found her to be “an astute businesswoman in many ways, & very rational.”  The renegotiated deal: $500,000 for “Something’s Got to Give,” plus a bonus if completed on time, & another $500,000 for a new musical called “What a Way to Go.”  It was a stunning victory for her.  

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World 

The original “dumb blonde,” had just re-negotiated her own contract with Fox for $1 million. Perhaps she was not as dumb as everyone thought.

July 4th, 1962 = The Lawfords host a 4th of July celebration at their beach house; both Bobby Kennedy & Marilyn attend.  They are seen walking on the beach together, apparently friends again.  “Something’s Got to Give” is scheduled to begin filming later in July. 

Also in July 1962 = The Cuban Missile Crisis is going on; U.S. surveillance has captured photographs of long-range missiles in Cuba.  At the same time, J. Edgar Hoover receives a confidential document from his FBI office in Mexico City, informing him of Marilyn’s friendship with a suspected Soviet agent living in Mexico City: Frederick Vanderbilt Field (she had visited Mexico City in February 1962).  At this critical juncture in the Cold War, Monroe’s relationship with the Kennedy brothers (& the confidential knowledge they may have given her), combined with her association with Communists, prove deeply concerning to the FBI.  Monroe may have, unwittingly, provided Communists with top secret information regarding the situation in Cuba.

Marilyn’s rancor at this time with the Kennedy’s, her unparalleled access to the press (& their adoration of her), combined with her increasing drug use & mental instability ~ created a potent cocktail: she could have done or said just about anything.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World 

Just one month before her death, the U.S. was embroiled in the Cuban Missile Crisis, & the FBI had discovered that Marilyn may have revealed sensitive information to Communists about the Crisis (which was later revealed in de-classified CIA documents).

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Mid-July, 1962 = Hoover meets with Bobby Kennedy, upon his return to Washington.  Though their exact conversation is unknown, the following day, Bobby cuts off all contact with Marilyn. 

July 17th, 1962 = Marilyn tries to reach the Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy, numerous times ~ but can’t.  She is blindsided, & extremely angry.  Telephone records indicate that she tried to call Bobby at least 8 times during the month of July.  She also tries to reach him at home, which Patricia Lawford says “infuriated him.” 

From early July – August 4th, 1962 = Marilyn is recorded to have seen her psychiatrist, Dr. Greenson, 27 out of 35 days, & her physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, 13 days.  On several visits, she receives injections.  (Note: From an outsider’s perspective, this seems highly irregular, particularly since the drugs they were administering are no longer used today, as they are far too strong for regular usage).  Greenson, a Communist sympathizer, & important figure in several L.A.-based Communist organizations, learns of Monroe’s estrangement with the Kennedy’s.   Engelberg’s ex-wife, Esther Maltz, said of their relationship, “Hy kept Marilyn sedated for Dr. Greenson.” 

My question: why did Greenson want (or need her to be) sedated?

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World 

Dr. Hyman Engelberg, Marilyn’s physician.

Late July, 1962 = Marilyn allegedly takes a drive with longtime friend, Robert Slatzer (who has been villainized & often discredited by Kennedy supporters).  He says that she was “totally outraged that they had both (the Kennedy’s) cut her off overnight.”  She showed him numerous, handwritten notes from Bobby Kennedy, on Justice Dept. stationery, as well as her little “red diary” (that many have said doesn’t exist).  In it, were notes on conversations with the Kennedy brothers about the Bay of Pigs, Castro (& the potential assassination of), the Mafia, & Jimmy Hoffa.  She took notes because she wanted to “stay informed” for both brothers. 

But now, she was angry, & told Slatzer that she just may “hold a press conference ~ I’ve certainly got a lot to say!”  Marilyn knew intimately of JFK’s indiscretions.  She had documents indicating the Kennedys’ involvement with Mafia head honcho, Sam Giancana (also friends with Frank Sinatra).  And it was also clear that both Kennedys had spoken with her about national security matters.  Potentially, this could be a HUGE liability.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World 

Robert Slatzer, a former journalist, was often discredited, & said to have embellished his relationship with Marilyn ~ that they weren’t in fact that close. I include his testimony because it has never changed over the years: but even without it, the facts still point in one direction..

Wednesday, July 25th, 1962 = Darryl Zanuck wins his board room battle against Rosenman & the other two “Wall Street barracudas.”  This is also a victory for Marilyn: the Kennedys can no longer control her by ruining her career.  Zanuck reinstates her with an unprecedented million-dollar contract.  She WON.  

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World 

Darryl Zanuck & Marilyn Monroe. He may not have liked her very well, but in his own words, he “respected the money she brought into the box office.”

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Weekend of July 28-29th, 1962 (the last weekend of Monroe’s life) = Frank Sinatra invites Marilyn to fly up to his resort, the Cal-Neva Lodge ~ to discuss their next picture together: “What a Way to Go.”  But that was NOT his real intent.   Marilyn didn’t want to go that weekend, but Frank convinced her.  She later told Ralph Roberts, her masseuse, that it was ” a nightmare, a dreadful weekend.”  Also present were Mafia bosses, Sam Giancana (Frank’s business partner in the Lodge) & Paul “Skinny” D’Amato. 

Skinny later said,There was more to what happened [that weekend] than anyone has told. It would have been the big fall for Bobby Kennedy, wouldn’t it?” 

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

Chicago Mafia head man, Sam Giancana. He co-owned the Cal-Neva Lodge with Frank Sinatra, & was later wire-tapped & heard discussing what “really” happened that weekend at Cal-Neva.

Several sources confirmed that it was a dark & extremely disturbing weekend: Monroe was given pills, there were “sex parties” ~ many of which seemed to occur while Marilyn was unconscious; & photos were taken of her in extremely compromising positions, while drugged.  Over the weekend, it’s said that she was threatened to “keep silent” about her connection with the Kennedy brothers.  This really seemed to be the main intent behind the weekend, with photos being taken for potential blackmail. 

Photographer Bobby Woodfield (the same photographer who shot Marilyn’s pool scene stills), later saw some of these photographs, while developing film for Frank Sinatra.  He said that it appeared Sam Giancana was having sex with Marilyn, who was on all fours, & that she did not look well in the photos.  They were extremely disturbing pictures, obviously taken under coercion, & Woodfield advised Frank to “burn them.”  

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World, Frank Sinatra

Billy Woodfield took many iconic photos of both Frank Sinatra & Marilyn Monroe, including this shot of Sinatra.

Joe Dimaggio, having heard that Marilyn was at Cal-Neva that weekend, tried to check into the Lodge ~ but Sinatra wouldn’t let him.  Joe stayed nearby, & tried (unsuccessfully) to reach Marilyn.  After that weekend, Dimaggio never spoke to Sinatra again, & refused him entrance to Marilyn’s funeral.

What Really Happened to Marilyn Monroe? Girl Who Travels the World, Cal-Neva Lodge

Cal-Neva Lodge, owned by Frank Sinatra & known mobster, Sam Giancana, was a well-known Rat Pack haven.

Sunday, July 29th, 1962 = Marilyn flies back to Los Angeles from Cal-Neva with Peter Lawford & Barbara Lieto, the widow of Sinatra’s pilot; Marilyn appeared to be heavily drugged or intoxicated.  They land in L.A. well after midnight.  On the way home, Lawford stops at a pay phone (it’s learned later that his house has been bugged ~ but he probably already knew that at this time).  He’s on the phone for about twenty minutes.

White House telephone records show an 18-minute call from Lawford on July 30th at 5:40AM (PST), or 8:40AM (EST). 

What did Lawford discuss with the President, just one week before Marilyn’s death ~ & why did he feel the need to discuss it on a pay phone?

Final Week of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Monday, July 30th, 1962 = Marilyn places an 8-minute phone call to the Justice Department, the day she returns from Cal-Neva.  No one knows what was said during this call (except perhaps, J. Edgar Hoover), but if her behavior following is any indication: she was no shrinking violet.

Week of July 30th = Marilyn enters a whirlwind of discussions about new projects, fresh off her landmark victory with Fox.  She speaks with Gene Kelly about a new musical.  Plans are made for other movies.  And perhaps most telling, she plans to attend the opening of the musical “Mr. President,” on the same night that JFK & Jackie will be attending (on September 25th, 1962).  She orders another spectacular $6,000 dress to be made, especially for her.  And she pumps her stylist, Mickey Song, for information about the Kennedy’s.  He doesn’t want to get involved, he says, & stays quiet. 

Later, after Marilyn’s death, Song sees Bobby Kennedy, who congratulates him for “defending the Kennedys.”  He’d heard their discussion on a tape recording.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

The week before her death, Marilyn discusses a new film with Gene Kelly (pictured), & orders a $6,000 dress for the premiere of the musical, “Mr. President.”

Thursday, August 2, 1962 = Marilyn visits the nursery for four hours, deciding which trees & plants she wants for her new garden.  Dr. Greenson sees her twice that day: once at his office, once at her home.  That night, she’s invited to the Lawford beach house, & Lawford’s friend Dick Livingston said she came in with champagne, wearing the “damnedest little outfit.”  

Friday, August 3rd, 1962 = Bobby & Ethel Kennedy fly to San Francisco with their children.  The lead item in that day’s New York Journal-American, by columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, was of Marilyn’s being the “talk of the town” again.  The piece hinted at her involvement with a handsome gentleman who’s an even “bigger name than Joe Dimaggio in his heyday.”  Just two days prior, Kilgallen had called the Justice Department asking for Robert Kennedy, to confirm rumors of their affair.  She had received intel from a source “close to the star.”  That week, Marilyn was also featured on the cover of both Life & Paris-Match ~ she seemed to be everywhere, looking radiant.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World

Marilyn was all over the press in the months before her death ~ & then again, after.

Also on Friday, August 3rd, 1962 = Marilyn tries to call Bobby several times at his hotel in San Francisco: the St. Francis.  She can’t reach him, because Kennedy & his family are actually staying with family friends 60 miles south, near Gilroy, at the Bates Ranch.  Also that week, Marilyn was starting to clean house: she’d kicked out her drama coach, Paula Strasberg, sending her back to New York.  She’d also told Robert Slatzer that she was planning to get rid of her publicist, Pat Newcomb (Kennedy loyalist & close friend), as well as Dr. Greenson.  She was also planning to let go of housekeeper Mrs. Murray, who she felt had been placed in her home by Dr. Greenson to spy on her. 

(**These assertions are also confirmed by Marilyn’s handyman Norman Jeffries, who was present during the last 24 hours of her life ~ which will be covered in the next post.)

Evening of Friday, August 3rd, 1962 = Lawford & Newcomb take Marilyn out to dinner at La Scala in Beverly Hills, one of her favorite restaurants.  Patron & costume designer, Billy Travilla, who knew Marilyn, says that she appeared “drugged or intoxicated,” & didn’t recognize him.  When they return home, Newcomb & Monroe allegedly get into an argument, & she tries to reach Bobby Kennedy again at the St. Francis.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World, La Scala

On the night before her death, Marilyn dined at one of her favorite restaurants: La Scala.

The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

Thanks for reading, “The Last Months of Marilyn Monroe’s Life,” & stay tuned for the next post, Part 3 in this series: where we’ll dig into the day of Marilyn’s death.  NOT the fake story that was first told to the police ~ but the REAL story that came out, years later…

xoxo Noelia 

Read Next: What Really Happened the Day Marilyn Monroe Died?

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Timeline of Events in the Last Months of Marilyn Monroe's Life, Girl Who Travels the World